I WAS very interested in the article about the petition on pensions at Westminster and Mhairi Black’s intention to have this issue debated (95,000 back women hit by changes to pensions, The National, December 29).

Like many other women I am directly affected by this. I was born in 1956. I started work in a Saturday job at age 16 and earned £1 for my day’s work. Even then, two pence (old pennies!) were deducted from my wages for National Insurance.

I have worked constantly since that time and have never had any breaks. I feel very strongly that the government has broken its pledge to us. I paid my two pennies at that time as I thought it was part of a contract that guaranteed me a pension at 60. I will now have to work on until I am 66. I am now 59 and am already struggling with the demands of my job. My mum died age 72 so if my life pattern follows hers then I will have six years of a pension. That seems grossly unfair when I paid in to it in good faith.

I did try to make some protest about the change at the time it was brought in, and I am delighted that Mhairi Black has shown some real insight into the impact and is prepared to challenge it.

Ruth McCabe

It’s time to ditch honours for the undeserving elite

AS I write, various leaks are emerging concerning New Year “honours”. Time to dish out the medals again? To honour the dishonourable and ennoble the ignoble? What a farcical waste of space this ceremony is.

Lynton Crosby/Danny Alexander; I know 50 people more deserving than them of recognition by the state. A ridiculous proportion of honours recipients attended ‘public’ schools, and why should so many recipients be politicians, higher civil servants or military personnel?

I would even go so far as to contend that high-achieving sports stars should be excluded, as the true honour is gaining an Olympic medal (for example) not in meeting the unelected and out-of-touch monarch. Actors and musicians should also be excluded, as not only are their talents’ worth a matter of opinion but they too have honours awards of their own.

Scotland does not need an honours system; we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns.

Andrew McCrae

AS we approach the announcement of the New Year Honour’s List, a plethora of individuals will be honoured for doing precisely what they are paid to do – their jobs – often at considerable taxpayer expense.

Three years ago a Westminster select committee report on the honours system announced that “no one should be honoured for simply ‘doing the day job’, no matter what that job is”. However, analysis of the honours system reveals that a significant number of civil servants still receive honours every year, and top Whitehall mandarins can still hope to receive a knighthood.

This year the names of 136 civil servants are featured on the two lists – one published at New Year and one to honour the Queen’s official birthday – submitted by the Prime Minister to the Queen.

The honours system has been further degraded by the awarding of a knighthood to Lynton Crosby, the Tory political strategist. Let us not forget that honours for political service were supposed to be banned after Tony Blair took office in 1997.

What is desperately needed is a radical reform of the honours system, promised for some time, but which has hardly started.

Alex Orr

WE are approaching that time of the year again when Westminster doles out gongs and baubles to the deserving.

Unfortunately, I invariably find that Westminster’s opinion of those who are truly deserving rarely coincides with mine.

However, I do believe the work done by BBC Scotland, since seemingly becoming the official Holyrood opposition, merits a few dame-doms, knighthoods or even OGE (Order of the Glasgow Empire) heading Pacific Quay way.

Apart from those in the public eye, the unsung Stakhanovites behind the scenes also deserve recognition for their promotional work on behalf of the Union, with the unrelenting, almost subliminal, imagery of “Britishness” ensuring that BBC Scotland rarely appears to be actually Scottish.

However, if Jackie, Sally, Kirsty, Gordon, et al are overlooked honours-wise, I urge them not to be too downhearted as more and more of the Scottish public are recognising their sterling work.

Malcolm Cordell
Broughty Ferry

THE National’s “Politics of austerity” headline on December 30 was spot on. We must never forget that the austerity programme has nothing whatsoever to do with balancing the books. Cameron and his band of millionaire thugs have taken this route because they ENJOY watching the suffering of others less fortunate than themselves.

When you consider that Cameron’s ancestors used slaves and produced workhouses so that the poorest in society could work 20 hours a day for a pittance, then it’s very easy to see where the present day compares with the past.

When Cameron came to power through the back door, thanks to the treacherous LibDems, the first people he targeted were the disabled and the unemployed. He stripped them of their benefits and their dignity, which was disgusting considering that under the last New Labour Government he himself claimed Disability Living Allowance for his late disabled son. He then stigmatised them as scavengers, scroungers and skivers and declared them a burden on the state.

These tactics to turn mass hatred against vulnerable people are not new, they were tried and tested in another European country more than 80 years ago with devastating results.

Seven years ago I lost my wonderful sister, a nurse who loved and cared for everyone, to MND, yet today Cameron is forcing people with this most terrifying terminal illness into “fit for work” tests. As a person who recently underwent chemotherapy for leukaemia, I pray that the Almighty lets me live long enough to see Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith and their henchmen rot in hell.

Louise McArdle

WHEN Allan Sutherland asks whose fault it is that many people are living in dire poverty with not enough food, the answer is the Conservative Government (Letters, December 30). The DWP can sanction the benefits of parents , disabled people and those not well enough to work.

Mr Sutherland obviously doesn’t understand the cruel effects of sanctions on vulnerable people who are struggling. We shouldn’t make judgements about lone parents because we don’t know the circumstances, but we should instead be concerned for the five children of a lone parent who relies on state benefits and struggles on a daily basis to feed her family.

Heather Macdonald

Letters to The National, December 31, Part 2: The left-right rift obscures real concern about ‘named persons’